Sparkling playing of Bach for flute and organ at St Andrew’s

‘Bach for Lunch’

Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 846 (Book One)
Sonata E, BWV 1035 for flute and basso continuo
Prelude and Fugue in F minor BWV 881 (Book Two)
From Suite in B minor BWV 1067 for flute and strings
Douglas Mews (organ), Penelope Evison (baroque flute)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 2 April 2014, 12.15pm

A third player in the recital was the fine acoustic of St. Andrew’s Church, allowing all the nuances of sound from the instruments to be clearly heard, even the quietest ones.

The programme opened with organ only, playing perhaps the most familiar of Bach’s Preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier (or Keyboard, in this translation), which unfortunately I missed, due to parking problems. However, I heard the fugue, delightfully played on a lovely high flute registration.  This being baroque music, the small baroque organ was used, pulled forward and towards the centre of the platform – it was good to see it being played.

Douglas Mews introduced the next item by saying that the pitch of the time of the sonata’s composition was fully a tone lower than that used today, and this was the pitch of Penelope Evison’s instrument.  Fortunately for him, the music copy he was using was printed in that pitch, i.e. D major, and not in the modern E major.

He used a registration that contrasted sufficiently with the tone of the baroque flute, without overpowering it.  Very much a continuo part, it provided few flights of fancy for the organ.  In the second movement, allegro, Mews employed plenty of lift in his part, making for a charming and lively performance from both players.  The third movement was a sleepy siciliano; the final one, allegro assai, featured tricky rhythms – the players were not always totally together.

The next Prelude and Fugue from the organ I am particularly fond of, and I enjoyed hearing them on the organ.  There was good contrast between the legato passages and those with more lift.  A brighter registration was used for the fugue.

The Suite was entire, apart from the opening Ouverture, which was absent.  Like all the Suites, this is a lovely work.  Its opening Rondeau was crisp and lively; the second dance (Sarabande) contrasts well, being slow.  The two Bourrées are quick and sparkling, though as played here, they were perhaps a little too fast to dance.  Contrast came again, with the stately Polonaise.  The Menuet is also slow, but features beautiful melodies, while the final Badinerie is utterly delightful.

Despite only two instruments being used, sometimes only one, the concert revealed something of Bach’s great variety, and certainly much of the vast experience and expertise of these two musicians.


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